Grateful

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

John Wooden

“Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”
Gilbert E. Chesterton

 
 
When I am at my most whiny, and finally reach a point of self-awareness, usually I realize something about me. I am self-centered. When I am self-centered, I am petulant. When I am petulant, other people have a more difficult time meeting my expectations. When people have a harder time meeting my expectations, they disappoint me. When people disappoint me, I whine. And so it goes!

It’s not just you I do this with. I do it with God. Oh yes, I know….”how could you, you dirty rotten Christian?” It’s quite easy. It’s a relationship, like my other relationships. None of my feelings are necessarily based on truth, or on inadequacies in others, or me being right. It’s where I go. It’s what I do. It’s part of my pattern. It’s one way I sin.

We’ve all got a pattern that takes us in a wrong direction. Yours may be different than mine. Yours may look a lot cooler. It may not be something that anyone else knows. But it is your dirty little secret that separates you from God. Chances are, it is something that simply puts you first and God a distant second. Chances are it is a reflection of your own self-centeredness.

When we think a bit too much of ourselves, it is difficult to be grateful. It is difficult to say thank you and really mean it. We’ll be polite….and say it. But is it by rote instead of by truth?

I hate being told what to do. Even something that seems as benign as being thankful. Sometimes I just don’t feel it. Sometimes I roll my eyes at the glowing words of “things I am thankful for” because I know some of the backstories. I know that some who speak the words the longest and the loudest, are not living lives that appear to reflect gratitude for what they have. They treat these people and things they say they are most thankful for with dismissal. Yeah, it’s not just “them.” It’s me.

I also know some who seem to have a pretty rotten lot in life. Sick and battered bodies, loves lost, contentious people to deal with, money that won’t stretch to meet needs, unmet expectations, unrealized dreams. How can they be thankful for that? But oh, as I have seen with so many lately, they can be and are! It’s a beautiful thing.

Regardless of our circumstance, regardless of how we feel, we should “do” thanksgiving. We should make it a physical act, a mental exercise. We need to take inventory of those things that are important to us and see if we’re living lives where we’re grateful for those things. It’s easy for our lives to become unbalanced. Sometimes we don’t spend our time with those who we say are most important to us, sometimes we don’t live the values we say we hold for our lives. Sometimes we don’t recognize the gifts of our life. Sometimes we see nothing except ourselves. When we just see ourselves, it’s difficult to be thankful for the other things. It’s difficult for us to really enjoy our life.

Thanksgiving by its nature should carry a bit of humility. Being thankful requires we look beyond ourselves. It also requires we look at ourselves for what we really are. Imperfect. Not deserving of the great things that permeate our lives. Not deserving of the other imperfect people who love us, even imperfectly. The stuff. The jobs, even when they are “work”. The opportunities. The freedom. The wealth.

Being thankful requires we look just at ourselves, and not weigh our bounty against the bounty of others. Because really….how can we be thankful when we are busy measuring? Impossible multi-tasking (even for us women.)

At this time of year when we hear a lot about thankfulness, it’s OK to roll your eyes on occasion. (Yep, that’s just me giving myself permission because it is bound to happen.) But as we start a “thankful list”, know it will be long. For all of us. More than we need. Most of what we want. But the list only has significance if we live it. If we are grateful for it. Grateful enough that we change our lives. That we love people actively. That we use our stuff and share our stuff. That we realize that whatever our circumstance God has given us exceedingly, abundantly more than we deserve. (I just love those words.) If you don’t see it that way, you’re not really thankful.

Our whiny selves don’t have much of a reason to whine. Because we are the recipients of a graciousness that is amazing. Life. Our world. Our God. Our gifts. Not given out in order of the best of us, or the worst. Just because. We don’t have to be deserving, but to really appreciate what we have we do need to be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you be more than content with your lot. May you be aware of it and grateful for it. Enjoy celebrating the bounty that is yours.

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